Message – In Him, means in Him
In Him, means in Him
For the past two weeks we have turned our attention towards the One, Who in this life, is literally our very best and most reliable friend – the person of the precious Holy Spirit.
I can barely say the words without my heart getting stuck in my throat – on a personal note, the Holy Spirit has been so faithful and kind and solicitous and pursuing and doting over me. Always there, always loving, always seeking to take me deeper, share more, forgive freely, redirect my passions towards their designed target of God in Christ. He does this, all the while being almost feminine in the gentleness and unobtrusive nature in which she deals with me.
I know some might take offense at the use of the feminine in regard to the Holy Spirit, but I know the Spirit doesn’t take offense. Why should she? The Feminine is as much a part of God as the masculine and they both have their place and expression.
As you know I strongly believe the Lord Jesus and the Father left us a mother to care for us, nurture us, remind us of all the Father has said, and prepare us for our adult life in Him for eternity. [See The Mothering Heart of the Holy Spirit & God as seen in Mothers].
Well… that was a bit of an intro, but one that I believe is well warranted I have to say.
No words – regardless of how majestic or poetic could ever hope to capture the beauty, wonder and worthiness of God’s precious Spirit!
The Holy Spirit in John 14-16
Now in order to facilitate our focus upon our Helper, we have been taking a closer look at the words of our Lord just before being offered up for us…in John 14 & 15.
We ended last week with barely an intro in the 15th chapter, so that is where we will pick up this morning, here in a little bit.
Remember that all we are aiming at in this study is understanding:
- How to connect and cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He works in our hearts and draws out of us devotional, passionate love for God.
It is THIS that will produce a radical impact on how we live our lives.
As this happens…as our hearts passion intensifies, we will all grow equally in our passion for His soon return. We will find ourselves saying, in concert with the Spirit Who has been given to us – “Even so Lord Jesus come.” And we know that this has a direct impact on the purity of the lives we live.
1Jn. 3:3, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
Oneness & Union
We were created for union and oneness with God through Christ Jesus both now and forever and that is the focus of John 14-16.
With that being said there are some major theological hurdles we have to get past in order to correctly understand the depth of what is in these chapters – especially chapter 15.
What was the context?
As you know, in chapter 14 Jesus was finishing up the communion meal with His disciples.
In chapter 13 we learn that it was towards the end of this meal that Judas left to betray Jesus.
Afterwards Jesus said He was going to go away, and Peter wanted to follow Him. Jesus told him he could not right now, but would later.
Peter asked why not – “I’m ready to die for you” – to which Jesus replied that Peter would deny even knowing Him 3 times before the rooster crowed.
Then the whole discussion in chapter 14 happened while still seated around the communion table in the upper room. The chapter then closes out with Jesus saying, “Get up, let us go from here.”
So all of chapter 15 on through the beginning of chapter 17 is Jesus’ discussion with His disciples as they were walking to the Garden of Gethsemane.
So as Jesus was walking with His disciples He spoke to them about:
- Their union with Him
- The necessity of bearing fruit
- The means of bearing fruit
- The results of bearing fruit
Let me impress upon you how important this is…
If you are a parent about to embark on a couple’s get away with your spouse and you are leaving your young adult children at home over the weekend…you might tell them many things, but you will reserve the most important things for last.
Why? Because while all the other things might get lost or garbled in memory, the last thing you said to them, will likely be what sticks! It’s nothing less than human nature!
Jesus was just about to die. As their spiritual father, and I don’t mean to put a light spin on what Jesus did for us by using these words, but in keeping with this analogy, Jesu was going away for the weekend and THESE are the LAST instructions He was offering His disciples.
So how important must this be? THIS WAS VERY IMPORTANT!!!
Also, keep in your mind that Judas had JUST betrayed Jesus.
A briefing on Judas
I think it is easy to forget that Judas was among the twelve as one who was said to be “on the inside” [Mark 11:4]- and was given the honor of understanding the mysteries of the kingdom of God – which Jesus said very clearly was NOT given to those who are OUTSIDE.
This is an inconvenient truth people often look over. Judas was not a bad seed from the beginning.
We have to remember he too had left everything to follow Christ.
This was not a simple task, or a light hearted commitment.
It’s not like Judas followed Jesus as a disciple with evil prophetic insight in order to betray Him 3 years later!
We don’t know at what point Judas’ heart became open to betrayal, but it was likely when Jesus began to talk about His kingdom in terms which were contrary to Jewish tradition.
A few weeks before His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus started talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood and that He would die and raise from the grave. All of this sounded profoundly un-Messianic to his Jewish ears!
What kind of advancement could you possibly get from a King who dies?
Whatever the reason, we know satan did not enter him until after he took the bread Jesus offered Him at the meal as recorded in John 13:26,27.
So understand this was all immediately in Jesus’ mind and experience as they left the communion table and He began to speak the words which are recorded in John 15.
The unsettling nature of Jesus’ words
Jesus knew He had come in order to bring union with God – eternal life, He had just ate the meal which symbolized that deeply longed for communion with His disciples…and it was AT THAT VERY MEAL where one betrayed Him (John 13:21), Phillip made it clear he didn’t even really know Him (John 14:8,9) and Peter thought his commitment was strong enough to die with Him (John 13:37,38) and all of this had to be very disheartening!
“(1) I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.”
The Father is the owner and keeper of the vineyard, and Jesus IS the great and true VINE.
I won’t spend much time on this since I’ve taught on it before, but these words had a massive impact on His disciples and it was just one more in a week long barrage of doctrinal wake up calls for these disciples.
Remember when they were in the boat and He calmed the winds and the waves…how they were astonished and said, “what manner of man is this that even the winds and the waves obey Him?” [Mk. 4:41] Clearly they were aghast at what they had just witnessed.
Well let me suggest to you that upon hearing these first words in chapter 15 they were probably left speechless!
The vine of God’s planting is a metaphor used for Israel from antiquity and so to hear these words was a shock.
Jesus was claiming that He…in His person was replacing ALL of Israel as THE VINE and that all who loved and joined themselves to Him in faith and obedience were the branches which would produce fruit to God’s glory.
Some of the Old Testament passages which speak of Israel as the vine of God’s planting (making God the husbandman or vinedresser) are Psalm 80; Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Hosea; Nahum; Haggai; Less obvious are the references in Zechariah & Malachi.
Nevertheless, it is a pervasive and often used metaphor analogous to Israel’s UNFRUITFULNESS even under God’s constant and solicitous efforts.
That’s right, all of these references were either in judgment for failing to be a fruitful vine or foretellings of the New Covenant where they would become fruitful.
So every Jew was VERY familiar with this language and it was used quite purposefully by Jesus on His disciples.
Among all of the above references the one in Jeremiah 2 is my favorite because it is most clear.
“(20) For of old I have broken your yoke and burst your bonds; And you said, ‘I will not transgress,’ When on every high hill and under every green tree you lay down, playing the harlot. (21) Yet I had planted you a noble vine, a seed of highest quality. How then have you turned before Me Into the degenerate plant of an alien vine? (22) For though you wash yourself with lye, and use much soap, Yet your iniquity is marked before Me,” says the Lord GOD.”
So by using this analogy Jesus was getting their attention and re-writing their theological book all in the same moment. I am sure this was a bit overwhelming!
Jesus was saying that a fundamental shift was taking place….instead of Israel being the vine – Jesus now claimed that title and called them the branches – whose ONLY connection to the Father was THROUGH HIM!
Their great tutor – the Law – had fulfilled its purpose and brought them to Christ. NOW their connection to God was ONLY through Him! [Gal. 3:24,25]
Jesus had JUST told Thomas in chapter 14 (and all that were around the dinner table) in the upper room, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
So their minds were already reeling as He went on to use this Vine/Branch analogy of the kingdom and how it would bring glory back to the Father.
Inside this new concept, Jesus begins to tell them how – for the first time in Jewish history they could finally become the fruitful people God had so long desired…but that it MUST be in the new relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son and the ONE Who would facilitate this whole thing is the VINE LIFE – the Holy Spirit of God.
If in this analogy God the Father is the vinedresser and Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches which produce fruit, then most certainly the Spirit is the vine life that flows from Jesus our Vine to us the branches, enabling us to bear fruit.
In other words, the Holy Spirit is the ONE Who reveals Christ to us, connects us to Him and works in us to produce the fruit of His likeness.
Again this is the Menorah!
I say all of this because this is most likely how these words fell on the disciples’ ears and therefore, how God intended it to fall on ours.
It was shocking and was intended to gain their whole and undivided attention…and I believe He had it!
I also want to really seriously, deeply, indelibly influence your minds to see how important this was.
It wasn’t just some introductory statements introducing them to “Christianity 101 – the clef notes”, it was the entire course on through to the doctorate level.
This was…this IS EVERYTHING!!!!
It tells us of our place IN HIM. IN…HIM… being a central and key part of all that followed!
We are NOT peripheral to God, but have been made one with Him. I mean this in the most sacred and respectful of ways.
The reality that we ARE and ALWAYS WILL BE the Created is a forever reality! WE ARE NOT GOD – BUT, we have been invited into the reality, the communion and the shared experience OF God as His created offspring.
For a created being, it doesn’t get any higher, any more significant, any richer than this!!!
If we understood, for even a moment what this means, we would comprehend why our characters becoming indistinguishable from His is not only important… it is 100% required and is in fact the boldly stated ‘end game‘ of the Gospel message!
I am reminded of a C.S. Lewis quote from his book ‘The Weight of Glory’
In it he said,
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. . . . There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”
We were created for nothing less that total and eternal intimacy with God. To collectively be a body of people God inhabits and in Whom we live – forever!
I don’t care if you’re God or not – forever is a LONG TERM commitment and WE are where God desires to spend eternity!
As Psalm 132:14 says,
“(11)The LORD made a reliable promise to David; He will not go back on His word.
He said, “I will place one of your descendants on your throne. (12) If your sons keep my covenant and the rules I teach them, [so it was conditional] their sons will also sit on your throne forever.”
(13) Certainly the LORD has chosen Zion; He decided to make it His home.
(14) He said, “This will be My resting place forever; I will live here, for I have greatly desired it.”
Going back to John 15, Jesus went on to say…
“(2) Every branch in Me
Every branch where? IN ME!
‘IN ME’ is Union!
The meaning of the words “IN ME” is clear enough and is EXTREMELY intimate.
It IS UNION… it speaks to oneness with!
The very point of using a vine/branch analogy was to show how, once we are IN CHRIST, we are literally ONE WITH HIM. We are of the same sort! You cannot take an olive branch and graft it into a grapevine. They are NOT of the same sort. Their DNA is different and you get an immune reaction. In other words, the Grapevine would reject it!
Man, SOOO MANY analogies from Jesus‘ teachings immeditely spring to mind here.
- Israel and the Gentiles being natural and wild olive trees. – Rom. 11:17-24
- The guest at the wedding feast who was thrown out because he did not belong. – Matt. 22:11-14
- How many foreigners will sit down with Abraham and Issac in the Kingdom but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outter darkness. – Matt. 8:11,12
- ….and on and on and on they go.
Now the words “IN ME” or “In Him”….are speaking of those in relationship with Him. THESE ARE NOT a “professing” Christian only or they would not be IN HIM.
In order for these words to mean ‘in profession only’, then they were only an empty profession in chapter 14 when Jesus said that He was in the Father, and the Father was in Him. You can’t have it both ways!
It doesn’t mean one thing there and another thing here – not if we are being intellectually and theologically honest.
This is a VERY important and yet neglected or deliberately avoided topic, but we cannot claim to love the truth and avoid difficult statements!
If Jesus had been teaching the Law, then perhaps “IN ME” could be understood as any Jew circumcised into the Jewish faith and therefore did not indicate true connectedness, but we know better.
Luke tells us that the force of the law ENDED at John the Baptist!
From John forward – the Gospel of the Kingdom was preached – you know that – I’ve taught you that MANY times because it is a PIVOTAL issue both in understanding scripture and in combating misinformation in our day!
So in keeping with this, we MUST understand that Jesus did not say, “IN ME” but meant “in Judaism” – He said what He meant!
Paul teaches very clearly and unambiguously, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” in 2 Cor. 5:17
So Paul said that to be IN CHRIST is TO BE a New Creation.
In fact NO WHERE, that I know of, do the scriptures use the words ‘In Him” or ‘In Christ’ as meaning someone who professes Him only but has no real intimacy with Him.
In the entire Gospel of John, Jesus uses the phrase “IN ME” 16xs (6 of which appear right here in the analogy of the vine and branches).
In all of them some aspect of relationship is in view – either due to belonging to Him and being part of Him or in terms of our active communion with Him.
Paul’s use of the phrase (including “in Christ”) carries the same meanings.
Truth is, I cannot think of a single example of the phrase “in Him”, “IN ME” or “in Christ” being used to describe someone who has NO relationship or communion with Him at all.
Beyond that it is logically impossible anyway!
In fact, a good number of the times it is used it is referring to God IN Christ or Christ IN God – but it is with great significance that it is ALSO used in the same sentence structure and words here in this chapter regarding our union with Them.
God takes our union with Him seriously! We as Christians need to do the same.
We need to quit making salvation all about how this life and the next affects us – and allow the Love of God to redirect our affections towards Him and what HE wants.
God has given us His Holy Spirit in order to prepare us as a dwelling place for God in the Spirit. We are being built into a spiritual house for Him to dwell.
God will not live in or with sin!
Now PLEASE track with me here!
This is where people jump off the common sense train and turn all theological.
They think, “well my sin has been dealt with so I am already a place God can dwell…in fact He already dwells in me.”
Yes, the Holy Spirit dwells in you, but not the Father.
In fact it could be argued that Christ’s dwelling in you is in the form of a seed as is mentioned in 1Jn. 3:9.
All references to the Father dwelling in us are future and conditional.
If you do this, then We will make Our home with you.
IF you do THAT We will make you Our dwelling place.
If we do what? OBEY!
Now this is important enough to spend some time with!
The conditional nature of abiding
Let’s reexamine what Jesus actually said regarding this.
In John 14 He said these words…
“(15) If you love Me, keep My commandments. (16) And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— (17) the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you…(20) At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (21) He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
“(23) If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
ALL of these were both future and conditional.
We ARE BEING prepared as a place for God the Father to dwell.
- Jesus was able to look upon and live among sin – He even became sin for us.
- The Holy Spirit was with and in Jesus empowering Him to offer Himself up – so He too is able to be among sin.
- The Father on the other hand, turned His back.
This is why we ARE BEING made into a dwelling place and are not already that dwelling place.
It isn’t enough for sins to be forgiven, we need to begin the process of forsaking sin and bearing outward fruit unto righteousness. THAT is what FRUIT is!
The Father is not looking to move into filthy, yet forgive vessels.
Again I am not talking about the fact that we have become “made right with God” through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ”, IF we have come to Him in surrender and in faith to His Lordship.
There is however a difference which scripture is both clear and unambiguous about between WHO we are and HOW we act.
We HAVE been made ONE SPIRIT with Him (1Cor. 6:17). Our spirit man has come alive – has been MADE alive together with Him. This life, as it is written about in Paul’s letters, is in the absolute sense. It is not in part. We WERE darkness and now we ARE light in the Lord.
This represents a total and complete change – a total polar reveral if you will.
Our spirits are that part of us, which according to 2Cor. 5:17, has become new having been made in 100% conformity to God.
2Cor 5:17-18, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (18) Now all things are of God, Who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ…”
That there remains some part of us which still needs “saving” or restoring is clear. It is also clear that it is that part of us in which we make our decisions and which steers our actions.
The word used nearly universally in the scriptures for this part of us is our soul.
That our souls have not undergone a complete and entire transformation as of yet, needs no defense. The scriptures are replete with direct, apostolic doctrinal statements about how our souls are still in the midst of transformation.
Heb. 13:17, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”
James1:21, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
1Peter 1:8-9, “…Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (9) receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”
Php. 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;”
Paul said it this way,
“(16) If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. (17) But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (18) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. (19) For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (20) Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”
Paul had a desire to live in accordance to God’s will and way, and yet he also had an influence from his body to live according to the flesh.
Every child of God knows this struggle.
Yet Paul explains it as if the real Paul – meaning the spirit who is Paul, was not the one sinning now that he was in Christ.
Just like 1Jn. 3:9 says, “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”
Where is that seed? Is it in the body? NO! According to Paul in Romans 7, NOTHING good dwells there.
Is it in my soul? NO! For if it were in my soul, I would never side with sin again.
Therefore it must reside in my Spirit – in the part of me which isn’t a part of me, but is the REAL me.
If I sin it is NO LONGER I who does it, but the sin that dwells in my flesh influencing my soul to side with sin.
So putting this altogether with what I have been saying.
Yes, I am forgiven.
Yes I both AM righteous and stand righteous before God, but I am still working out the salvation of my soul.
That is character transformation, where I am becoming like Christ in how I think and act – NOT JUST in who I am!
God is not looking to inhabit a human, whose spirit is alive to Him, but whose soul and flesh still have vestiges of sin remaining in it. THAT is what I mean be forgiven – yet filthy. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom!
I know all of this makes many modern Christians cringe, but it is in keeping with all the above verses and the overall teachings of the New Testament.
What makes a man filthy is not what goes in him or what is done TO him but what comes out of Him Jesus said.
If all that ever came out of me was the true “I” Paul was talking about, it would always agree with God! However, what comes out of a man comes from his soul which is influenced by both God AND our bodies.
That is why our souls have got to become transformed into His likeness so that regardless of what our flesh influences us to do, we alway side with our Savior.
This is why, once we become God’s children through reliance upon Jesus we are not instantly a dwelling place for God in the Spirit. THAT is what we are being prepared to be, by the inner workings of God’s precious Holy Spirit.
Eph. 2:18-22, “(18) For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (19) Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, (20) having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, (21) in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, (22) in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
1Peter 2:1-7, “(1) Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, (2) as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, (3) if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (4) Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, (5) you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (6) Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHIEF CORNERSTONE, ELECT, PRECIOUS, AND HE WHO BELIEVES ON HIM WILL BY NO MEANS BE PUT TO SHAME.” (7) Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED HAS BECOME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE,”
Rev. 21:2-4, “(2) Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (4) And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
To think that our forgiveness is all that is necessary is to place Jesus as the chief cornerstone in a building which is forgiven, yet still producing corruption.
These ideas are NOT supported in the scriptures and they are not consistent with it’s message.
So returning to our discussion on what ‘IN HIM’ means….assuming Jesus and Paul BOTH knew what they were talking about, these people who Jesus was referring to in John 15:2 as “in Him” are true children of God.
You can even see that in the text of verse 4…
“(4) Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.”
Now, at the time – the disciples were ‘in Him’ in that they kept the Old Testament covenant AND accepted and obeyed Jesus’ words as being both Messiah and God’s Son.
This is just like blind Bartimaeus…his confession of Jesus as “the Christ” by calling Him by the name, “Son of David” – was viewed by Jesus Himself as his placing his faith in the Messiah and as a result Jesus told him TWO THINGS.
- First “receive your sight” AND
- Secondly “your faith HAS saved you.”
Adam & Eve, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David were all set apart for salvation the same way.
So, Jesus’ disciples were as ‘IN HIM’ as it got, prior to His death and resurrection.
Spiros Zodhiates, whose word studies of Greek New Testament words I find invaluable, defines the words “in Me” found in this particular passage this way.
“Of those with whom someone is in near connection, intimate union, oneness of heart, mind, purpose, especially of Christians, in union with Christ by faith and who are become as branches in the true vine.”
So, let’s just be honest – if we challenge this obvious meaning, by saying it means “those who simply have a profession of Faith but who never really came to know Him”, we do so NOT on doctrinal or even literary grounds, but solely upon doctrinal bias’.
In which case we become not lovers of the truth, but creators of our own “truth”.
In closing, let’s introduce the passage which get’s people all upset and encourages this idea that ‘In Him’ only means “one who professes to know Christ, yet does not truly know Him.”
Jesus clearly said,
“(2) Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes,”
Well the first thing we need to hold onto is that the people He is referring to are in fact IN HIM. We must agree with this before we do anything else.
The words “He taketh away” or “He removes” you will find is number 142 in your Greek concordance.
The PRIMARY meaning given is To lift, remove or carry.
According to James Montgomery Boice, a reformed Theologian best known for his writings in defense of Biblical Inerrancy, says this word airo has four basic meanings:
- To list up or pick up
- To lift up figuratively, as in lifting up one’s voice or eyes
- To lift of with the added thought of carrying away
- To remove
He goes on to argue that this verse makes the most sense by translating it with it’s FIRST and PRIMARY meaning – that of lifting up…and I agree with him!
In context, you have a branch that is decidedly IN Christ – THAT is what the passage says and no amount of theological techno-babble should be allowed to change that but in SO MANY cases it is precisely that which becomes the center of the translation issue.
So what do the words “are taken away” mean?
Well, if read one way it would mean they literally are taken away from the Vine. THIS WOULD BE BAD!
If read another way, it could mean, “are lifted up” – this would be good.
Since in the husbandry of vinekeeping, there is the time honored practice of “lifting up low hanging branches”, so as to give them greater sun exposure so that they might prove to be a fruit producing branch on the Vine and therefore increase the overall productivity of the Vine, this meaning should be considered.
In addition to this, that statement is in the same sentence as those who already produce fruit being pruned that they might bear more fruit.
The whole verse reads like this…
John 5:2, “Every branch IN ME that does not bear fruit He lifts up; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
So bearing increasing yields of fruit is the very subject of the sentence here… so it is NOT a reach to assume that such is the objective and therefore the meaning of the word “taken away”. It most likely means to lift up.
However, that does not take the entire potential of one being in Christ and yet being cast off as a branch off the table, since it is brought up in another context in verse 6. That however, both logically and theologically MUST be treated as an entirely different subject.
Now I want to end here, but lest I leave you in a precarious place as a sheep on a cliff, I will throw you a bone (I know I am mixing metaphors with abandon but it works).
Verse 2 says, “Every branch IN ME that does not bear fruit He lifts up; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
but verse 6 says, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” …and it is this latter verse that creates the fansy theological footwork regarding being ‘IN HIM’. However, there is no need for forcing the issue, because the difference between these two verses is clear.
In verse 2, the branch is IN HIM.
In verse 6, the branch left Him.
In the former, they remains IN HIM, in the later they forsook Him in that they chose to no longer abide…and THAT is where we will pick up either next week or the week following.
In the end, there is NO NEED FOR FEAR, for those who love Him!